Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I have a face. Do YOU?

As stated by the author, Julia Alvarez, of In the Time of the Butterflies, “A novel is not, after all, a historical document, but a way to travel through the human heart” (Alvarez, 324). The depth of a piece of literature cannot be found in the genre of the work. The significance of the work is discovered by the one who explores it. It is found in the response that the reader or explorer has to the work. A person often determines their opinion of the said book by the response that they have had to the work. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis is a book with a significance determined by the response of the reader. This book requires one who is willing to not only analyze the meaning of the book but to scrutinize their own heart. Not only has this book found its way into my own heart, it has also found a permanent spot on my traveling bookshelf that goes with me everywhere.

I have a love of literature. Therefore, liking a book is in no way uncommon for me. Yet, this book is an uncommon book for me to have an interest. I am the girl that loves to read about missionaries and those people who are intrinsically kind and caring to a fault. I would rather read a romantic ‘happily ever after’ book than face reality. Till We Have Faces is not that at all. This book’s primary character is selfish. Although she feigns interest in the lives of those around her, all Orual truly cares about is how their lives pertain to her life. Orual is constantly seeking to fill the insatiable hole of neediness by vicariously living through the lives of those around her with whom she loves. Orual is a person who completely monopolizes the lives of the people around her if given the opportunity. Orual is far from beautiful physically, mentally, or even spiritually.

Orual defies the characters that I am generally intrigued by. Originally, I struggled with a feeling of loathing for Orual. Generally, I do not like people who struggle with the same time of heart matters as I. Of course, Orual is nothing sweet or good although she strives for these things. Orual is overwhelmed by her selfish desires. Yet, she is complex. Orual also has a mystery. She is not altogether bad or altogether good. One moment, Orual is filled with sacrificial love for Psyche where she would gladly sacrifice herself in her sister’s stead. Within days, Orual is manipulating Psyche into doing something that will ultimately severe their sisterly bond forever. Although Orual is motivated by her desires to please herself, those motivations often aid the furthering of prosperity for her people even if they originally doomed Psyche to wandering. Somehow, all the negative influences upon Orual’s life manage to bring about positive aspects in the life of Orual and her kingdom.

I find that whether I like it or not I actually relate very well to the character and person of Orual. I secretly believe that the world does, in fact, revolve around me. My life is very driven by my own selfish motivations. Although I deeply desire to emanate my most pure heroines from the sweetest and unrealistic books, I find that this is utterly impossible. Orual almost makes me uncomfortable because we are so very similar. We both have created walls to protect ourselves from the risks of weakness. Although my veil is not visible, I have placed such a wall between myself and other people. It hides my vulnerabilities. Yet, I also have a type of admiration for Orual who was able to obtain what she wanted in life if not love. She was a strong, mysterious woman who inspired those around her to strive for education. One thing I do not want to emulate is her propensity to allow her love to consume those that her adoration was given. Orual and I share many similarities, but hopefully, we shall differ in our approach to the concept of love.

Till We Have Faces has become a favorite of mine because it subtly deals with the matters of the heart throughout the covers of the book. It has examples of pure, trusting, noble, persevering, selfish, and manipulative characters. It is a story of inner growth. Orual is a character that one can easily relate with because she is needy and desires to be loved. This is a cry that echoes through the hearts of every human being on the planet. A person’s actions stem directly from the thoughts of the heart. Even though I hated Orual at first, I have found an odd sympathy for her and even find that I have a hesitant liking for her. I do not read books twice, but I might read Till We Have Faces again.